16 November 2023
Share Print

Disability History Month: Time's up - Employment tribunal time limits and mental health conditions

To The Point

Employers and employees need to understand the employment tribunal rules governing time limits, including the circumstances in which the tribunals will extend these limits. Following the Labour Party's recent proposal to extend the time limit for presenting a claim from three to six months, we look at how this could help those grappling with mental health conditions, how they are currently protected and what an extension of time limits could mean for employers.

Disability History Month runs from 16 November to 16 December 2023.

For the first of our weekly articles that spotlight disability issues during Disability History Month, we focus on the extension of time limits for presentation of claims in the employment tribunal in relation to a claimant's mental health condition.

The Labour Party recently restated its proposal to extend the time limit for raising an employment tribunal claim from three to six months from the date of the alleged act. One of the potential benefits of this proposal cited by Labour is that it could combat the "motherhood penalty" by granting pregnant women more time to assert their rights. However, the implications extend far beyond this demographic. The extension could act as an opportunity to address a crucial issue often overlooked in legal discourse: the unique challenges faced by individuals grappling with mental health conditions. 

Mental health conditions, in their various forms, impact a substantial portion of the workforce. The complexity of these conditions, ranging from anxiety and depression to more severe disorders, frequently creates hurdles to timely legal action. Many battling such conditions find it challenging to adhere to the existing stringent time limits. These limits can be especially unforgiving when the manifestations of mental health issues make it difficult to seek legal representation, navigate the intricacies of a tribunal claim, or even muster the courage to initiate the process.

As it stands, employment tribunals do have the discretionary power to extend time limits and offer a potential lifeline to those who have missed the deadline under specific and exceptional circumstances.

Current employment tribunal time limits
Extending the limits
Extensions of time due to mental health conditions
Looking to the future

In any event, it is crucial that claimants and respondents alike obtain legal advice at an early stage to ensure that they are conscious of the limitation periods, can strategise accordingly and protect any relevant evidence.

The contributors to this article were Kelly Brown and Katie MacColl.

Next steps

If you need any support or advice on limitation periods or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please contact one of the team.

To the Point 

Subscribe for legal insights, industry updates, events and webinars to your inbox

Sign up now